To say or not to say…. That is the question?

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” 

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Working in the field of addiction and eating disorders, as well as being in eating disorder recovery myself, I have experienced and witnessed first hand the lack of knowledge and understanding many people have about eating disorders. 30 million people in the U.S. will suffer from a diagnosable eating disorder during their lifetime, while many more cases go unreported. Eating disorders are often suffered in silence and while there is a sterotypical idea of how someone with an eating disorder should look or act, that is simply not the case. Anyone and I mean anyone can suffer from an eating disorder. No matter the age, race or gender, eating disorders do not discriminate. It is important to not only be aware of signs to look for when you suspect someone in your life may be suffering from an eating disorder but also to be aware of the sensitive nature of this disease. With any form of recovery there will be good, positive days and then there will be dark challenging days. Often times certain words or statements will be enough to send someone who struggles into the dark tangled web of negative thoughts in their head. This is why education and awareness is so important. It is not the fault of those who do not understand, supporting someone with an ED can be difficult and frustrating, it is hard to watch people hurt themselves and know you can only do so much about it. This is why it is so important to educate and increase awareness for those who may not be able to understand the power of this disease. To help people gain understanding is where true change can occur.

“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”

Listed below are some things you should not say to someone with an eating disorder-

1.) You look healthy– To many people this seems like a very normal, harmless comment often times meant to be supportive but to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder this comment can be one of the most triggering. The eating disorder mind has a way of turning many comments and twisting them into something negative. The ED mind hears “healthy” and associates that with being fat, being like everyone else, being normal or someone noticing a change in their appearance. Being called healthy can send someone spiraling downhill into anxiety, depression or trigger them to engage in their ED behavior. When in recovery from an eating disorder it is a very sensitive time, people are challenging themselves in many ways and if they feel their body changes are noticeable to others it can re-trigger those negative ED thoughts back in a very strong way. I advice many people I work with to not comment on the weight or appearance of their loved ones and focus on discussing inward positive emotional changes instead.

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2. Comments about food– Another big trigger that can effect someone with an eating disorder is when someone else comments on their food, labels their foods as healthy or unhealthy or comments on the amount of food someone is eating. For someone struggling with an eating disorder they are already hyper vigilant about what they eat and are trying to break away from stringent rules or judgments on food. For someone trying to overcome their eating disorder, eating in front of people is a huge milestone in itself, eating in front of others is a common fear for someone struggling. Commenting on what they eat or how they eat only puts the hyper focus and fear of eating back into action. Try to refrain from commenting and instead enjoy the company of who you are with and be in the present moment.

3. Why don’t you just eat?– This comment can be very hurtful to someone struggling with an eating disorder, if eating disorder were as simple as just starting to eat or stopping when full then this wouldn’t be the deadly disease that it is. Anorexia is the number 1 cause of death among all mental health issues. Eating disorders like any other mental illness or physical illness are not a choice, no one chooses to go down the eating disorder path. It is an all consuming disease that takes over someones life. I educate people that I come across that eating disorders are more than just about the food or appearance. There is often a deep wound or pain often times eating disorders become a way to cope with many different aspects of life. Try and be supportive and ask helpful questions to gain understanding of someone who may be struggling.

4.Commenting and criticizing your own weight- Those who are struggling with their eating disorder are constantly judging and criticizing their own appearance so to be around someone who is picking themselves apart only emphasizes the negative thoughts and enforces them in the ED mind. It is best to be kind to ourselves in thought and in action, one negative thought or comment feeds off another.

5. Don’t use or talk about numbers or calories-–  This is one of the worst things you can do to someone with an ED. Many times someone with an eating disorder is trying to stop behaviors, stop the obsession of the scale, stop the focus on a dress size or weight and calorie counting. To be around someone who brings that focus and attention back to numbers will only trigger someone trying to avoid those behaviors. 

6. You don’t look like you are someone who would have an eating disorder– This comment goes hand in hand with rule #1, do not talk about someone else’s appearance. Like I stated earlier eating disorders can affect anyone. Eating disorders come in many forms and the majority of sufferers are not the stereotypical image we have of a severely underweight emaciated person. Anorexia only represents 10% of eating disorders. Bulimia affects three times as many people who struggle with ED and binge eating has the highest incidence. Many times many people can experience traits of different eating disorder behaviors going back and forth from restricting, binging, purging or over exercising. When someone who struggles hears they don’t look like they have an eating disorder the ED mind twists and distorts this comment to mean that they don’t look sick enough, that they don’t need help. There is no one way to look, to be struggling with an eating disorder and by increasing awareness this is how we challenge the stereotype. 

 

These are a few key points to keep in mind when you are speaking with or supporting someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Remember to try and be supportive, instead of focusing on food or appearance focus on how they are doing, how they are feeling and ask them how you can best support them.

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The Importance Of Emotional Needs

From the day we are born we have physical needs. We are taught how to navigate through the world. From the day are born we also have emotional needs. As babies we cry and long to be held, to be comforted and to be loved.  Our cries as children was the first way we learned how to as for our emotional and physical needs to be met. As we grow older however we forget how to identify or ask for our emotional needs to be met. How can we ask for them if we don’t know what they are?  Some examples of our emotional needs are to feel accepted, appreciated, important, valued, loved or respected. When it feels like most of our emotional needs are being met they become “unmet emotional needs.”

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John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, believes that unmet emotional needs are one of the two major causes of anxiety. He says the other is supercharged repressed emotions. Emotional needs affect us more than we realize. They stem from childhood to adulthood. We learn from our caregivers how to express or ask for our needs to be met. If in our families needs were never expressed then it will make it difficult in adulthood to be able to identify what our needs are let alone express them. The importance of if our needs have been met throughout our life can often be something we are not aware of, however unmet emotional needs and an inability to identify or ask for them can turn into a negative cycle. If one grows up not understanding how to identify or ask for their needs to be met it will translate into their adult relationships.

I have often times heard people say “isn’t it selfish to ask someone to meet my needs”? My response is, it is never selfish to healthily communicate to someone how they can make you or your relationship better. It is the responsibility of the other person to decide if they choose to meet your needs. All we can do is take responsibility for oursevles and our responses, not the responses of others. If we hold in our needs they will fester and possibly grow into anger or resentment. It can also lead us to look for other external factors to get our needs met.

When What You Say and Do Is Not In Sync With What You Feel

Some Ways We Try to Compensate for Our Unmet Emotional Needs

By managing/controlling/manipulating others

By feeling superior to them.

By seeking status, money, fame.

By competing and trying to be the fastest, the smartest, the best, etc.

By keeping all our emotions inside and never voicing them

By isolating from others

By turning to food, drugs or alcohol to comfort ourselves or deal with uncomfortable emotions

By reacting with passive aggressiveness or hostility

By people pleasing

We do these things to try and make ourselves feel ok, to feel better, to be enough. They are a temporary band aid to a wound that has yet to heal. When we behave in ways that compensate rather than address the issue we are utilziing unhealthy ways of coping. In order to feel emotionally fullfilled we must utilize healthy coping skills and it all starts with identifying what your emotional needs are and then finding ways to ask for them. You hold the key to emotional freedom.

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Renovation of our minds

Therapists work with many different types of people, people whose stories and struggle are each different and unique. One common thing I have noticed as a therapist is how powerful our thoughts truly are. Thoughts can either be your best friend or the toughest meanest bully you can ever encounter. The power however is in your hands, the power to make a transformation of your mind is possible. Look at your mind as a room that needs to be redone and revamped, we do not want to demolish the room. The goal is not to destroy, erase, damage or forget the goal is to renew, restore and to renovate.

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The definition of renovation is to replace and make new. Our minds can be filled with toxic negavitve clutter. Our thoughts have the ability to make us second guess ourselves, our worth and what we are caplable of. How many times have you had a thought of ” I can’t do that” I’ll always struggle with this issue ” I”ll never be as ( fill in the blank here)” All these negative thoughts are junk that clutter your mental and emotional space. The moment you give in to the negative thoughts you are making a silent agreement with them. An agreement that opens the door to the negative thoughts and allow it to stay, fester grow and to make themselves at home. We have to develop an “I don’t think so” mentality. When a negative thought or idea comes your way the ability to answer back with an assertive  stance and declare, NO! I don’t think so is how you start to regain power and challenge the negativity. You may be asking how?  Here are some ways you can begin to renovate your mind.

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1. Trace the origin of your thoughts- Thoughts, beliefs and ideas come from somewhere, they have an origin a birthplace. They are like seeds that are planted in us. When negative thoughts come ask yourself, where did this thought come from? Is this serving a positive purpose or a negative? Is this thought my own or does it come from somewhere else? Many times the realization that the origin of certain thoughts come from your past, your expereinces and your relationships can be freeing. Locate the origin and then you have the power to  question, challenge and fight against it.

2. To renovate your mind pull down the negative and put up the positive – Once you know the origin of negative/toxic thoughts you can start to challenge them. This is where true renovation begins, when you start to challenge negative thoughts and ideals you start to take away their power, you start to question the truth behind the thoughts. When you realize certain thoughts developed through things that were said, experiences that one person had the truth behind the start starts to break. This is when you start to replace toxic negative thoughts with positive helpful thoughts that are based off of your values and ideals. This where you start to brighten your mind.

3. Guard your mind and thoughts- When you start to challenge the negative thoughts and are able to replace them with positive then its time to guard your mind. Protect your mind from the negative to come back and reclaim the space it once had. If your awareness is heightened then you will be more in tune with yourself and what thoughts you allow to take space in your mind.

4. Be patient with yourself- Negative thoughts love to come in and say ” You can’t do this” ” This isn’t working” Give up”. Remember to be kind and patient with yourself in any challenging growing process. One of the biggest trigger emotions and thoughts are fear of failure and hopelessness.

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It is very common to allow negative thoughts to lodge into our minds and take over, that up all the space. Whether you are facing depression, sadness, bitterness, grief, eating disorders, addiction my belief is that if we can renovate our minds and clear up a lot of the negative junk then room for healing can truly begin.

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For more information please visit my website http://www.journeytowellness.info

How To Love Your Body: No Seriously!!

I see many different lists of how to love your body and improve body image. These lists are often filled with beautiful affirmations and postivity however for many people struggling with negative body image or deep insecurities with their body, affirmations are not enough. I created a simple list of ways to start to challenge the negative thoughts and to hopefully begin the stepping stones to lead to a path of true body and self acceptance.

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1. Don’t focus on loving your body focus on loving yourself.

“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative”

To love your body means more than the physical you must start with focusing on ways to love and embrace yourself. There needs to be shift from body image to focusing on overall self image. To learn how to embrace all of who you are and everything that, that entails. Focus on your morals, values, goals and your overall purpose in life. By challenging yourself to start to deviate focus from the physical the true parts of who you are will start to shine.

2. Challenge every negative thought-

” With mindful awareness, negative self judgments make an excellent reference point for who you are NOT.”

Chances are the thoughts you say to yourself  you would never say to another human being. So why are they acceptable to say to yourself. Do not be your own bully instead focus on how you can become your own advocate. When you become aware of how truly negative and mean your thoughts can be you can start to challenge and fight them. Once you can challenge those negative thoughts and turn them into positive a true shift will occur.

3. Magazines & media-

“Warning: Reflections in the mirror may be distorted by socially constructed ideas of beauty.”

Turn your view the images and standards society and media portray of it being reality into what it is. The truth! which is it’s a fairy take, fiction, fake a fantasy. The images that are being portrayed are not real and when you can truly believe and know that these are false ideals they will have little control over your life. With the recent reports of stores posting ads with overly obvious photoshop its become increasingly clear how misguided our society is with these standards. 

4. Release Expectations-

” When you release expectations you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be.”

When you hold and place expectations it can often lead to disappointment. Ask yourself how many times you stand in front of the mirror, hoping, expecting to see an image you hold in your mind, only to be let down. That expectation is taking away from the true beauty of who you are, right now, at this very moment. Instead release your expectations of what you should look like and awaken every morning excited to be surprised by the beauty of who you are. 

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I’m not saying that turning your views from the negative will be easy, but the more you challenge the negative the more the positive voice inside of you will start to take charge. It’s time to start demanding, not only an improvement in our body image but our self image! Follow these stepping stones down the path to your own personal freedom.


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For more information about myself and to view my eating disorder internet series visit: http://www.therapycable.com/streams/behind-the-mask.html 

A Call To ACTION: National Eating Disorder Week

Many people do not know that there is such a thing as National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  On February 23-March 1 is NEDA. week. This week is important for many reasons, yet is rarely acknowledged in our culture. Eating disorders are commonly looked down upon, and I feel a big reason is because they are misunderstood. Eating disorders are an ever-growing epidemic. Many are not aware of how many around them could be suffering from this disease. Mothers, Grandmothers, Sisters, Daughters, Brothers, Sons, Grandfathers and Dads may be suffering from an eating disorder. It is a hidden secret that is often guarded, protected, and veiled with fears of judgment and shame. It is time to break down the walls. It is time to empower and fight for those suffering from an eating disorder, as well as educate those who are unsure of how severe of an issue this may

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Over 24 million people in the United States suffer from an eating disorder (anad.org). Eating disorders, specifically Anorexia, are the number one… the NUMBER ONE killer of all mental disorders. NUMBER ONE!!!
Eating disorders can be difficult to understand, but they affect more people than we realize. Dialogues must be started. Media stereotypes and the messages we send to the youth of America must be challenged. This growing epidemic will only continue to get worse, unless we shine a spotlight on this issue and increase our awareness.Young children are not immune to this disease. I have seen patients who have stated that their eating disorders started as young as the age of 5. How can children that young learn to hate their bodies? How do they learn to harm themselves in such a physical way to cope with internal pain? Information about this issue must spread; we cannot stay silent any longer. It is time to speak up, to learn, grow, and face this problem. For someone suffering from an eating disorder, it may feel like being locked in a silent prison that slowly kills.
 
By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference
There are many misconceptions about eating disorders and people who have or are currently struggling with one. I’ve heard time and time again, “Why can’t the behavior just be stopped?”, as if it were as easy as turning an on switch off. What many people don’t know is that an eating disorder is a disease, and also an addiction. Eating disorders are more than just a behavior; it is a mindset and a thought process that takes over many aspects of a person’s life. There is more eating disorders than an obsession with weight and body image; there are factors that contribute to the extreme mindset and feelings that come with an eating disorder. If we can better understand the mindset and find ways to help then maybe one day the recovery rate of won’t be as low as it is now.The purpose of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week is to ultimately prevent eating disorders and body image issues while reducing the stigma surrounding eating disorders and improving access to treatment. Eating disorders are serious, life-threatening illnesses – not choices – and it’s important to recognize the pressures, attitudes and behaviors that shape the disorder. We have come far in the last two decades but eating disorders research continues to be under-funded, insurance coverage for treatment is inadequate, and societal pressures to be thin or look a certain way remain rampant. Some doctors fail to recognize the signs or offer the help that many people suffering from an eating disorder need. Education is vital. 
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We need acceptance, we need love, and we need hope. Most of all, those who suffer from an eating disorder need support. The more we can make them feel safe to share their stories and feel understood, the more we can continue to combat for and help those in need. I have hope that one day we will live in a society where our shape and weight are not what define us. I have hope that one day those suffering will continue to find the courage and strength within themselves to fight and know it’ll be ok; that recovery is possible and that they have a voice we want to hear.This is a call to action. Please do your part and increase awareness with eating disorders. You can visit nationaleatingdisorders.org. The smallest things make the largest difference. Thank you.By talking about eating disorders and reducing the stigma associated with them we can start to make a difference.

Finding The Artist Within: Art Therapy & Eating Disorders

Art Therapy is becoming a powerful and effective coping skill that the eating disorder community has embraced. Art therapy helps and challenges a person to create and to reflect on the process of the art making experience and the art work they create. This process is powerful especially for someone who is suffering from an eating disorder because it helps gain new insight and awareness about themselves and their eating disorder.

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Having worked with the eating disorder population for six years one common thing I have seen is how difficult it can be for so many to express or identify their feelings and thoughts. For many words are not a viable and comfortable outlet for them to use. This is why art therapy can be so powerful. The transformations I have seen in someone who with words alone could not express the pains within, utilize different avenues of art for expression is inspiring. I wanted to share with the world how art therapy can be used to help those who suffer from an eating disorder in their recovery process.
 
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Art Therapy for Bulimia or Binging:
 For so many people out their suffering from bulimia or binging the behaviors they exhibit is that of a binge then purge cycle or a binge cycle. For someone who suffers with bulimia the purge is their avenue and way to get rid of or releases intense emotions. The purge serves as the outlet for release and a physical act of expression. This physical act on themselves is the attempt to get rid of unwanted feelings & emotions that feel to much to cope with. The binge cycle is an act of no control, a person feels lost and numb during the binge often times this serves as a way to not only disconnect with the body and mind but emotions as well.  The binge and purge cycle are often attempts to cope with unresolved emotional issues such as depression, rage, powerlessness, frustration and sadness. Art therapy is a unique way of tapping into those feelings both conscious and unconscious. 

Incorporating art therapy into someone suffering from bulimia or binge eatings treatment could help with the binge and purge symptoms and a greater understanding of what the binge and purge behavior represents or how its used to help one cope. Using art therapy could become a replacement behavior or coping mechanism for the binge and purge behavior.

Art Therapy for Anorexia
: For someone struggling with anorexia there is a restricting of not only food but emotions. Those who suffer from anorexia severely restrict their food content and this serves many emotional purposes. Starvation depletes the body of essential nutrients that the body needs to feel energy and function. Someone who suffers from anorexia feels a numbing of emotions when in severe starvation. They no longer feel any troubling emotions inside, starvation allows them to numb the pain they feel internally. Art therapy provides an outlet for anorexics to explore buried feelings as well as reconnect with their feelings and perception of themselves and their body.

Art therapy can be used like a key to open doors and hidden things. I empower you if you are struggling with expressing or identifying negative emotions to channel them into a creative form of expression. This allows the development of a new language to find a healthy way to cope with emotions. 

Some examples of utilizing art for coping:

– Creative Journaling

– Scrap booking

– Vision Boarding

– Collage Making

– Painting.

– Writing 

– Pottery/ Clay Making

My hope is to increase the awareness of utilizing art therapy and give so many out there hope that there are healthy powerful ways to confront and get through the pain without turning to the eating disorder behaviors. There is hope for recovery, it’s time to find the artist within

Breaking Binge

I love to address and discuss topics that inspire me, motivate me or allow me to think of things in a new light. When I decided to start an eating disorder recovery & support group I was baffled that majority of the emails I received were from men and women looking for help with binge eating. I personally have noticed and this is my opinion that binge eating is less frequently talked about or discussed. I believe that clinically and socially anorexia and bulimia are more focused on because of the more obvious physical presentation of the eating disorder however binge eating while physically not as apparent is equally as tragic, harmful and devestating. Statistics state that binge eating is the most common of all eating disorders. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), binge eating disorder statistics are as follows: 1.2% of adults experience BED in any 12 month period. This means that 1.6% of women and 2.0% of men will experience BED in any one year. Binge eating is an uncontrollable urge or impulse to intake an overconsumption of food. I am writing this post and dedicating it to those who suffer from binge eating. I have heard many clients desperate to find a way to control their urges to binge. They feel helpless, lost, trapped in the vicious cycle of their binge eating and many feel hopeless. This blog post is not only to educate the clinicians but to give hope to those who feel they will never regain their control. Recovery from any eating disorder is possible.

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I wish I could provide the ultimate answer on how to stop binging or how to overcome an eating disorder, while I may not have an answer my mission has been to educate people on the different resources, techniques and ways clinicians and someone struggling can help think about and fight eating disorders.  I believe every person I work with or see functions and responds differently. What works for one person will not work for another. This is why I am constantly stressing for the clinicians to look at the bigger picture and think outside of what has been or is being conventionally done. Not to take away or say it doesn’t help but I believe we can go further, research more and find new answers or approaches to help those who may be suffering.

Binge eating has always been looked at as an emotional way of coping which it is. So clinicians tend to ask questions and dig deeper into the emotions, triggers and thoughts associated with or what happened before, during and after a binge. These are all great questions and things to examine and explore. Yes binge eating resonates with a great deal of the emotional turmoil going on inside, like I said in my previous post “Untangling The eating disorder web” binge eaters tend to take in to much never feeling fully gratified or satisfied. I am challenged however to look at Binge eating in multiple lights. I discovered this amazing book titled “Brain over Binge” written by Kathyrn Hansen. Reading this book my mind was blown away at her way of describing the binge cycle. While yes for many of our clients and for those who suffer from binge eating it is very emotionally driven however once in therapy and those emotions, issues and triggers are unveiled and identified what about the binge urge itself and the brain chemical component of the cycle? How do we tackle the brains urges and break the habit that has been conditioned and formed for so long. I can honestly say as a clinician like most of us do, we want to find the emotional answers, identify the triggers use distraction techniques coping skills, but what if those do not work for some of our clients? This book gives insight onto another way clinicians and someone who may be suffering can view themselves and their binge urges.  

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The author viewed her urges to binge as a survival instinct coming from a place of restriction or constant thoughts of not overeating. Scientifically if we look at someone who is starving themselves or restricting their food the brain and body kick into overdrive, needing food and nourishment to survive. This can lead to an insatiability and a need to eat more than one normally should to satisfy their body. This is where the guilt and shame come in and for some purging takes place .This cycle is triggered by the brain and body going into survival mode. She calls it the cycle of the divided brain. She splits up the behaviors assigning them as your conscious choices to restrict and diet, they are you and under your control. She describes the binge part the part with no control as “it” meaning the brains survival instinct. This revelation or way of viewing it was very powerful and in many ways made sense.  The cycle diagramed below many clients have expressed to me gave them hope that they could regain control over their urges. They felt their binge eating was not a part of them or their identity which I feel for many can be freeing. They said it explained to them what their binge eating truly was and that they were not helpless to give in to it. 

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As clinician we tell our clients when urges to restrict, binge or purge come up to use coping skills or to distract until the urges go away and for many clients this is very powerful and works and has helped many to recover. I am speaking to those out there where distraction only heightens the urges or delays them until eventually they are given in to. The author has stated to sit with your urges allow them to come over you like a wave and allow the thought to come but DO NOT act on them. She likens it to a storm the waves will come and crash down on you but eventually the storm will settle. She breaks down her steps that helped her which I have listed below from her blog.

1.    View urges to binge as neurological junk. (This means quit believing the urges signaled a real need – physical or emotional – and stopped assigning the urges any value or significance whatsoever.  View them as automatic brain messages generated in the  lower brain that deserved no attention. 
2. Separated the highest human brain from the urges to binge.(This means realizing the urges are not you, but instead are generated in brain regions inferior to your true self. Your true self resides in your prefrontal cortex – Your highest human brain – and it gives you the ability to say “no” to binge eating.  You have to know your urges are powerless to make you binge, and your true self has ultimate control over your voluntary actions.)   
3.  Stop reacting to your urges. (This means stop letting your urges to binge affect you emotionally and spiral you down to guilt and shame.  Allow them to come and go without getting wrapped up in them. This will make the urges tolerable and eventually easier to resist.) 
4. Stop acting on your urges. ( You don’t have to substitute any other behavior or emotionally satisfying activity for binge eating. I only had to refrain from binge eating.)
5. Get excited. (This is a bonus. By rejoicing in the success you do have even if its one urge or one day  you speed along the brain changes that can change habits and behavior.)     

The tools I listed above may only help some people and for others it may not but the beauty in educating people and increasing awareness is getting all different methods and inspiration out there. Every human being is different which is why what may work for one will not work for another. As clinicians we need to to understand and know the different ways to view eating disorders. If we look at them based on characteristics and treat them in one specific way we are doing a disservice to so many people who do not fall into “designated general categories”  We as clinicians by doing more research by exploring new avenues give our clients  to benefit from it. My message today is there is hope, there are alternatives, we just have to be open to explore all outlets and all forms of thinking because for those who suffer educating them and trying to understand who they are will help uncover the ways we can guide them on their path to recovery.

For more information about Binge Eating watch my discussion on the show  Behind The Mask: Eating Disorders Unveiled.

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